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The story of our journey towards becoming a family friendly church

Somewhat untypical of many old mining communities in County Durham, the village of Lanchester, midway between Durham City and Consett lies contentedly in its rural surroundings with its tree-lined village green, traditional stone buildings and vibrant Front Street shops.

In the very centre of this street, set back behind well tended lawns and flower beds is the Methodist Church, which over 20 years ago was extended and refurbished to provide a modern multi-purpose building.

Some time ago, after lengthy discussions, the Church Council agreed that efforts should be made to attract the many new families living in the village. We agreed to experiment for a six month period by altering in some ways our Sunday morning worship services.

Screens and projectors were borrowed and words of both traditional hymns and more modern songs were shown. People no longer had to worry about “Hymns and Psalms” or “Songs of Fellowship” and the cry of “which book is it in?” Was no longer heard. More importantly, visitors felt at home and children accepted this as just like every day at school.

In addition, on occasions, instead of a bible passage being read, someone would get up and simply “tell the story” as Jesus did when he was talking to people. At other times the organ would be complemented, or even completely replaced, by musicians on other instruments, and drama or dance would be used to enhance the worship. One or two preachers even showed video clips to illustrate a point.

During this period we discovered the website of the Family Friendly Churches Trust which had been set up by a Methodist minister Rev Mike Bossingham. This contained materials for use in worship, and we decided to invite Mike to come to Lanchester to take a “family friendly” weekend, On the Saturday he gave a group of us instruction in PowerPoint presentations, and on Sunday he led multi-media worship services for us. During the Sunday afternoon, however, he talked to us about the statistical survey he had done as detailed in his book, and which had led him to set up the trust.

All of this persuaded us at Lanchester that we should continue in the way we had started. Instead of trailing wires to intrusive screens and projectors, we installed much more discreetly placed equipment which doesn't detract from the overall atmosphere of worship. We originally agreed tht a group of our members would take responsibility for the first 15 minutes or so before the young people went to their own groups, and we agreed that the full worship group complete with drums and electric guitars would be “planned” into our morning worship.

The church council also agreed to join FFCT at an annual cost of only £30. The important part of joining is not the cost in money - it is our commitment to make our church a place where all ages can feel at home.

Have we seen a difference since we became the first church to join? The change is gradual, and we are still learning, and still making mistakes; but new people are coming to join our worship and it is great to see whole families of children, parents and grandparents coming together to worship the lord.